The Twins “have checked in on” Justin Upton now that the veteran outfielder has hit the open market, SKOR North’s Darren Wolfson reports (Twitter link). The Angels designated Upton for assignment last week and then released him after he cleared DFA waivers.
Should Minnesota or any other team sign Upton, they would only owe him a prorated minimum salary. The Angels are still responsible for the remainder of the $28MM owed to Upton for the 2022 season (minus that minimum salary). As such, it isn’t surprising that Upton sailed through the waiver wire without a claim, as any club claiming Upton would’ve absorbed that entire salary.
This isn’t to say that Upton didn’t receive some looks while in DFA limbo, as USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports that two “small-market, non-contending teams” were in touch with the Angels about potential trades. It isn’t known how far along trade talks actually got between Los Angeles and these two mystery clubs, but it was a moot point, since Upton used his full no-trade protection to reject the possibility of going to either team.
This sets up an interesting guessing game about what teams might have asked about an Upton trade. Nightengale’s description could include such teams as the rebuilding Pirates and Orioles, or perhaps teams like the Reds or Athletics who spent the offseason cutting payroll, if not going into full overhaul mode. The Diamondbacks (Upton’s initial team) could also perhaps fit, though the D’Backs did make some modest moves to improve themselves for 2022.
As to what could have been offered in an Upton trade, an interested team could have looked to acquire Upton and a chunk of his salary if the Angels had included a notable prospect to sweeten the pot. Or, perhaps a team was looking to unload another undesirable contract in exchange, either in pure salary dump fashion, or maybe this other big-mooney player might have provided some help to the Angels’ roster.
For a Twins team that had two left-handed hitters (Max Kepler and Alex Kirilloff) in corner outfield positions, the right-handed hitting Upton could be a nice veteran complement. Upton has been a replacement-level player over the last three seasons, but could benefit from a part-time role, as most of his struggles over the last two seasons have come against right-handed pitching.